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The Superpower Conundrum: The Rise and Fall of Just About Everything

The Superpower Conundrum: The Rise and Fall of Just About Everything

Tom Engelhardt

The rise and fall of great powers and their imperial domains has been a central fact of history for centuries. It’s been a sensible, repeatedly validated framework for thinking about the fate of the planet. So it’s hardly surprising, when faced with a country once regularly labeled the “sole superpower,” “the last superpower,” or even the global “hyperpower” and now, curiously, called nothing whatsoever, that the “decline” question should come up. Is the U.S.

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A long winded expose of the ills of America. Stop dancing around the central issue, Tom. Who has been pushing for war ? Who owns congress, the media, the funding for the bought and paid politicians. Who are the ‘neocons’ , the group behind PNAC ? The endless propaganda of enemies based on obvious lies, beginning with 911 and continuing with the accusation of terrorism by ‘others’ has led us to the state of fascism.


Tom, you torture me. You cajoled me into buying “Shadow Government” via Kindle. Read it . Excellent. Did I “Kindle” it? Would that be an anti-gerund? Am I a grammar school drop out? Stop making me think, it hurts too hard!

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Be prepared? I liked this piece up until its last two words.How can one “prepare” for a future that is an unforeseeable selection of possible bad outcomes? Anyone who follows what way back when I was a schoolboy were called “current events” which usually were discussed in a class called “Social Studies” is mentally ill if not worried and depressed.

Be prepared to either say “What’s happening now is way worse than even I thought it could end up being”. Or “This is not as awful as it might have been” I for one am astonished that nuclear war never happened in my lifetime which now stretches from the end of World War Two till . . . nobody knows. Never saw that not coming. My survival caught me by surprise.

I haven’t completely given up hope that someone or some group will see or create a way to stave off part of the catastrophe, but every new situation that acts out on “the world stage” eradicates a bit of that hope. But it’s been a now long and interesting life and I guess I’m as prepared as I can be to continue on with it without knowing if I’ll go out with a bang or a whimper.

“And what would they think if I mentioned that the other great conflicts of the post-Cold-War era were with Afghanistan (two wars with a decade off in-between) and the relatively small groups of non-state actors we now call terrorists? And how would they react on discovering that the results were: failure in Iraq, failure in Afghanistan, and the proliferation of terror groups across much of the Greater Middle East (including the establishment of an actual terror caliphate) and increasing parts of Africa?”

Regurgitation of the Official Narrative in its false rationales for spreading aggressive war–THE SUPREME CRIME–against humanity far and wide added to a glaring nonchalance regarding President Eisenhower’s warning about the growing influence of the military-industrial complex.

Mr. Engelhardt continues to push narratives that seem amused by the mistakes made IN wars, and he and his stable of writers love to play sports-casters in describing which plays won and which plays lost… but none of this superficial level of commentary exposes the true underbelly of The Beast.

Does Mr. E think Oswald killed Kennedy, too?

Right on! And the same questions can be posed to Andrew Bacevich, William Astore, and to a lesser extent (although validly) to Peter Van Buren.

I think the MIC is channeling these voices to C.D. to give militarism a “kinder, gentler” P.R. job. By critiquing the “mistakes made,” a slap on the wrist is provided to all those generals and war profiteers. But no real challenge is made to power, the dark agencies that PLANNED and PUT these wars into operation, or the many lies told often to not just Americans, but to citizens all over the world. Hint: War on Terror.

These writers–apologists for the MIC, it would seem–need to be called out on THIS website. They reinforce the make-war status quo!

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“The journey of a thousand miles starts from your feet are”. The elegantly simple thought in the Tao te Ching attributed to Lao Tzu reminds me to constantly question what informs my perspective.

If I pause and regard the hyperbolic swings in deterioration phase of despotic political financialization from the admonition ‘follow the money’, the too-new-to-be-widely-understood innovation of cryptocurrency still faces public dismissal perhaps due to the ironic mind bend of a name for encryption to establish and uphold transparency and autonomy.

It is worth looking at the domination of corruption of legitimate ‘oikos’ - management of the household, or Spaceship Earth for that matter. The institutionalization of a false and destructive interpretation of Darwin’s theory of evolution as predatory in nature is part and parcel of how that dissociation is constantly re-fed into predatory competition ideologies rather than cooperative stewardship and seems to be part of the deep transition out of false domination premises being foisted.

Nozomi Hayase, PhD., lays out a conceptual perspective to consider.
Bitcoin Paves a Way for Evolution of the Species

conversation on Keiser Report interview starts at about min 15;30

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This is a myopic (although not necessarily misplaced) focus on war as power, and its long convoluted and meaningless history vis a vis the US. I read it and thought, so here we have it again, talking about war as though it were the only way to visualize ourselves as a nation. The exercise of power without legitimacy is corruption. I think this could have been said a lot more quickly and succinctly, and then perhaps the author could have provided a section on 'soft" power, which the US is capable of projecting (see Nye). I guess I would have written it as a compare contrast essay. Now I will go back to what i am supposed to be doing today.

Yes, it seemed like the first part of at least a 2 part article. I couldn’t believe it when I reached the end.

It seems obvious to me that the reason national hypersuperdupermegapower status doesn’t matter is because they have no power at all. People in government may be the elite in some way, but really they’re some lower form of elite; clerks for the real owners. Governments are now essentially owned by corporations, which have motives and methods all their own. They want war to sell war toys as much as they want it to achieve market domination for the country in which they happen to have their corporate headquarters at the moment (although that apparently doesn’t make them feel any compulsion to pay fair taxes); the multi-directional pulls from different horizontally and vertically integrated conglomerates have more to do with media markets and bettering expectations from the annual report than anything at all about nations. If the world were going to continue as it is that would intensify; nations would probably become less and less important and we would be in the world of the William Gibson novel.

But of course the world cannot continue as it is. It will not. Beyond the many things it’s always been, and all the things it’s been for avoiding, war has become a way to avoid avoiding the onrushing ecological catastrophe. The decreasing EROEI of oil has put pressure on everyone. The only ones who can do anything about it are the very very rich, and what they can and have done is to preserve their position (even bettered it), privilege, income and wealth by shoveling the pressure onto everyone else. The fact that the Chinese newly-middle class is rising is used to disguise the fact that the falling of the US middle class and the phenomenal accretion of power and wealth in the hands of those richest few means we’re not creating a post industrial world of the universally upper-middle class; we’re creating a hyper-industrial world of royalty and peasants. But the fact that the biosphere is changing in the most fundamental ways in hundreds of millions of years means all of that is not creating the world of tomorrow as it seems to be. It’s only creating the templates the governing institutions with which we’ll be forced to meet climate cataclysm will be forced to follow.

Physical changes in the planet are coming faster and faster. The speed of those changes will make it impossible to adapt ill-fitting institutions of denial, aggression and oppression to the new reality of collapsing systems of production, care, cohesiveness and meaning.

The unstated upshot of Engelhardt’s wandering wonderings is that we have to create institutions right now to deal with what’s coming. Since it will be too late if we don’t reduce GHG emissions by at least 90% in about the next 15 years, right away means we need democratic, progressive, science-attuned, representative egalitarian government—in the broadest possible sense of decision-making systems in political, economic, religious, philosophical and cultural spheres—within about the next 5 years. Our chances are better if this happens everywhere, but since that’s unlikely, it at least has to happen in the US, UK, Australia and other places of denying delayalism holdouts, or our chances of having a civilization and a functioning biosphere in a century head toward zero very rapidly.


I guess we are safe from nuclear war? As Russia’s economy collapses and they are pushed in a corner,which we hear little about in the media. A nut case in North Korea who most likely fantasizes about blowing up the US. Thousands of Muslims who we have been dropping bombs on for the past ten years. We are told the US has some kind of control over Pakistan nukes-really. And China with their totalitarian capitalism-have you seen their cities with no people- their markets collapsing -and we using trade agreements to isolate China. Any of this being done to make the world a better place? No its all around greed. And we live in a country on the national evening news the top story is about weather,and the next story about a car crash in Ohio. I don’t want my country to dominate the world-I want my country playing a role in making the world a better place. A better place is economic freedom for all.

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No, we are not safe from nuclear war as long as the US continues to bully other proud countries such as Russia. Yes, we are people hamstrung by a government of puppets dancing on the strings of very rich corporate boards and super wealthy individuals who have assumed the resources and wealth of the world’s people as their own. They live in a walled city, walled social structure, they believe is necessary and impenetrable. But, we the people in the US have the encouragement of our Declaration of Independence and the supreme laws of our Constitution to demolish those walls of the rich, tear apart those corporations dissolve that stolen wealth and end the endless wars against our brothers and sisters. We just have to have the guts to do it. It is up to the people in the United States to join the others around the world who are rising upfor their right to live their own freedom. If this 4th of July celebration is about Independence, then let us show our true independence from those who think they own us from within their small circles of wagons of fear and bluster. Let us have true Independence at last.


“Whatever arises, ceases” are the approximate words of the notable Buddhist translator and scholar Stephen Bachelor. Philosophically acute as the quote is, one can never- the- less say love lasts, the middle way (don’t ask) lasts. And what may last is sustainable, maybe, if it lasts.
This is the new era we’re in, getting off the absolutist ideology. The era of perhaps, possibly, and maybe…it’s a horse race in full stride with survival on the table, as they say.

A recitation of the abundant machinery of warfare and its collateral environmental disintegration would take gazillions of pixels to quantify. When the time is right, or more likely, after irrevocable harm has been done to our lives and the planet, old timey palliatives will spring forth. Guillotines will be rolled out onto the streets of New York and Washington. Pitchforks will be deployed in state legislatures and the spirit of Robespierre will cleanse the gangrenous corruption of Empire from our beloved Republic.

“Yes, it seemed like the first part of at least a 2 part article.”

Everything Engelhardt writes, is essentially a selection from whatever upcoming book he’s working on.

“uniquely great power in decline”

The USA is uniquely great? Sorry, to be that was the dutiful burden of the British Empire and which we performed with admirable pomp and ceremony in various parts of the world.

Not only has the USA not built, unlike many of of its imperial predecessors, decent infrastructure in its Empire, it has also failed to use empire to maintain its own infrastructure whilst leaving bomb craters everywhere else. It has simply made people angry, and unlike previously, the angry people now have AK-47s and rapid communications. I would have written “uniquely stupid power in decline”, had I written this article. I regret that the USA will remain in history as a uniquely great opportunity thrown away.

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I find it ridiculous that you use railways in Europe and China versus railways in the US. That is stupid. The population density of the United States is far lower than that of Asia or China, making it not economically viable to have high speed rail. What if I criticized Europe by saying “Look at their highway systems, they’re so undeveloped”. That’s because they have more people in a tighter area, so there will be more people on a train.